Syria’s Email Wars: The Opposition Leaks

Syria’s Email Wars: The Opposition Leaks

Starting today, Al-Akhbar will be publishing a series of documents that electronic activists managed to obtain after hacking into the email account of Syrian National Council president Burhan Ghalioun.

After the supporters of the Syrian opposition recently leaked emails allegedly belonging to Syrian president Bashar Assad and his wife, hackers from the other side took over the account of the president of the Syrian National Council (SNC) Burhan Ghalioun and obtained most of its content.

Some of the documents, received by Al-Akhbar, shed light on what happens behind the scenes among the SNC members, the council’s international relations, and how it manages its finances. The emails are also an indicator as to how the council sees itself and its different components.

Today Al-Akhbar publishes three of the leaked documents in its possession. The first is from a US diplomat that shows the level of coordination between the two sides.

On 11 November 2011, Frederic Hof, special coordinator for regional affairs at the office of US peace envoy to the Middle East, sent a letter to SNC president Burhan Ghalioun and spokesperson Bassma Kodmani.

He suggested that they “may have the possibility to meet [Russian presidential] Special Envoy Mikhail Margelov.” In the letter, he advises Ghalioun and Kodmani about the Russian diplomat closest to the US position in the Middle East, and thus the closest to the Syrian opposition and Lebanon’s March 14.

Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011 12:02 AM
Subject: Mikhail Margelov

Dear Burhan and Bassma,

Forgive the flood of messages. I understand you may have the
possibility to meet Special Envoy Mikhail Margelov. I have not met
him myself, so I reached out to some colleagues who know him
for a recommendation. I am told he is well-worth meeting.

Margelov is very fluent in Arabic and spent much of his childhood
in Morocco and Tunisia. He has good access to President
Medvedev and a strong interest in Russia’s business interests in
He is reportedly very personable, very engaging and very
eager to appear reasonable. He is also quite knowledgeable.
One should perhaps not be overly eager to accept any
assurance he might offer that he can make things happen. Of all
of the people you meet in Moscow Special Envoy Margelov will
probably please you the most in terms of his reactions to what
you say. Although he is a true expert and enjoys a large measure
of credibility he is not necessarily at the center of the decision-
making process.

So: the recommendation is that you should meet him if possible.
He reportedly has a strong interest in the Arab League initiative,
so this might be a good topic of conversation.

I hope this is useful information.

Best wishes,
Frederic C. Hof
Special Coordinator for Regional Affairs
Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace
U.S. Department of State
(202) 647-2026

This email is UNCLASSIFIED.

The second email, originally in Arabic, is a letter sent by Ghalioun to the Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faysal on 10 April 2012.

To the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,
His Royal Highness Prince Saud al-Faysal…

In my name and on behalf of the Syrian National Council, I thank
you for the honorable position of the Kingdom that proved in
words and deeds that it is the best supporter of our steadfast
and resilient people’s revolution.

The Kingdom, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two
Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, played a
fundamental and most effective role in supporting our cause in
international fora and in the Arab and Islamic worlds, in addition
to the recognition of the SNC.

This compassion will remain in the memory and sentiments of the
Syrian people. It will become an integral part of the history of
Syria, sketching for it and the region a prosperous future based
on freedom, tolerance, and national liberation.

Based on our faith in the pioneering role of the Kingdom in
relation to our cause, and due to our desire to dutifully express
gratitude, seek coordination and strengthen cooperation, we
would like to inform you of our desire to visit the Kingdom as
soon as possible. Especially following the bloody events in Syria
and the upcoming regional challenges accelerating at a rate that
dictates we move quickly to coordinate positions, activate efforts,
and consolidate them in a common vision, which would allow us
to deal with what we are facing and anticipate what the coming
days will bring.

Your Highness,

Reaffirming our commitment to continuous coordination with the
wise leadership of the Kingdom, we would like to draw your
attention to the rupture in periodic and direct communications.
This creates significant gaps and contributes to the
fragmentation and loss of many efforts. Added to that is the
symbolic significance of our visit to the Kingdom, which will have a
very positive impact on the hearts of our slaughtered people and
inspire more hope in supporting the foundations of our
steadfastness and the activation of revolutionary efforts.

Your Highness,

In conclusion, we repeat what we expressed in the introduction
about our thanks and gratitude. We would like to stress that time
in Syria today is drenched with blood. Our enemy has not
quenched its thirst for the blood of Syrians, which it spills without
hesitation, supported by unprecedented Russian support, an
Iranian arsenal, and extremist positions.

As we rely on the will of God, we expect good tidings on your
part to expedite the conclusion of all that might lead to stop the
shedding of Syrian blood by all means and possibilities.

You remain an asset to this nation, a pillar of support for the
oppressed, and the best of brothers and supporters.

Paris 10/4/2012
Dr. Burhan Ghalioun
President of the Syrian National Council

The third email contains the minutes of a meeting, in Arabic, of the executive office of the SNC held on 4 April 2012.

Report of the Executive Office
Date: 4/4/2012 Time: 22:30
Place: Skype
Attending: Dr. Burhan, Mr. Farouk, Mr. Samir, Dr. Abdel Basset, Dr. Bassma
Candidates for office membership: Mr. Adnan Saif and Mr. Georges Sabra, Dr. Nathir
Absent: M. Mutie, Dr. Ahmad, Dr. Abdel Ahad
Candidates for office membership: Mr. Toufiq Dunia


1. Kurdish Issue

The SNC held a press conference to explain our view of the
Kurdish issue.

The Kurdish National Council is not ready for dialogue with us at
this moment. A dialogue will only take place after their next
conference, in two or three weeks.

One cannot extend the courtesy offered to the Kurdish
component among us more than we have done so far. They have
to decide whether to come back or not, based on our current


Based on all what was presented as our view of the Kurdish
issue, we cannot, in any way possible, increase the proposed
ceiling since it already exceeds all limits. The Kurdish
components must take a position and work to attract more
Kurdish energies present on the ground.

2. Relief Work

One and a half million Euros (US$2 million) were spent,
€300,000 (US$400,000) were spent by way of the relief office.
The latter had proposed that if we did not trust them, then we
should appoint a monitoring committee and allow the office to
work and implement the decisions. Then we would see the
results in the future.

In the past, two committees were formed: one to distribute relief
supplies and the other to draw up policies and decide on relief
distribution. We have to implement both decisions.


Working towards the implementation of the two decisions of the
office concerning the creation of a [committee] to draw up
mechanisms for distribution and guarantee it, in addition to
creating monitoring and follow-up mechanisms.

3. Preparatory Committee to Expand and Restructure the

Its role will be to research the components of the council and
external forces that are trying to join, to work towards increasing
the efficiency of the council, restructuring it, and initiation of
institutional work, and to prepare for a phase that includes all

Kofi Annan’s team is interested in meeting with the preparatory
committee and we have to deal properly with the other side in the
committee and explain their position towards the council. This
point shall be discussed in the framework of the next [executive]

We must establish standards to be taken into consideration
when researching each component, its size, establishment date,
characteristics, and the damage it has done to the mobilization
and its institutions in the previous period. There is no need to
include people [in the new SNC] who will cause harm to the
council and its institutions.

We asked the Germans to create a framework in line with our
position as a national council, to allow us to benefit from
international expertise to create a structure that is flexible, takes
decisions seriously, and is far from bureaucratic.

Decision: Working towards collecting all proposed projects
presented by Brother Abu Jawad, Mr Maher al-Ais, Mr Hisham
Mroue, the legal department, and Brother Youssef Yaghmour.
Working towards consolidating them in the next meeting of the
office and sending them to members before the meeting to be
able to discuss them. Dr. Nathir was asked to contact all involved
parties to request their proposals and Dr. Bassma will help him
locate Brother Youssef.

4. Liaison [with the FSA] Office

The meeting was attended by Brothers Mohammad Farouk, Dr.
Ahmad, and M. Mutie representing the SNC, and General Adnan
Ahmad, Colonel Riad al-Asaad, and Irfan al-Hammoud.

The brothers explained how Colonel Riad al-Asaad treated the
committee, saying that he was aloof and arrogant and that we
should find a collective leadership to ensure proper functioning,
since the actions of the colonel make the relationship
uncomfortable. This needs an in-depth study to be dealt with in
the next office.

We could not identify the extent of the FSA’s links to the armed
resistance inside Syria.

Positive evaluation of the personality and manners of General

Follow-up request: There is a need for a meeting with the
generals currently in Turkey to propose candidates for the liaison
committee. Follow-up on the statement of Saadeddine
el-Qassem that the FSA represents him externally but is not
linked on the ground with him.

Follow-up request: Preparing a list of names of military personnel
who have deserted the regular army in order to provide them with
salaries. This point shall be discussed further in the next office.

5. Meeting of the Secretariat:

A proposed agenda will be sent in two days.

Brother Wael Mirza declined to work in this committee.

The proposed date in the second half of April needs to be

The main point of the meeting is to discuss the structure and

6. Miscellaneous Issues:

A. The bodies found in the fridges of the national hospital in
Homs and the regime’s attempt to cover up the crime by
destroying the hospital and its equipment warrant a warning to
international opinion about the humanitarian and legal
repercussions of the issue.

Decision: After confirming the information, Brother Abdel Baset
Seda, head of the human rights office, is charged with contacting
the ICRC about the issue and discussing all possible measures to
stop this operation. Also, the media office will be asked to
release one or more statements and contact press and media to
explain the case and its repercussions.

2- Dr. Samir Geagea’s Assassination Attempt

Decision: The office shall issue a statement condemning the
attack that is a normal act by the oppressive regime in
Damascus. These acts of the oppressive regime in Syria will not
pass without punishment. A letter shall be sent to Dr. Samir to
congratulate him on his safety (Dr. Bassma).

3- Supporting the media project in Paris following the position to
maintain it for one month. The project was adopted after it was
presented to the office.

Decision: Inviting at least two persons from the project team to
meet with the office in its next meeting (Dr. Nathir).

4- Meeting with the Swedish Ambassador to the Syrian cause
and requesting humanitarian and health aid.

5- It is necessary to take care of defecting soldiers who are now
in northern Iraq.

6- Following the Istanbul conference, trust in the SNC is
beginning to increase. The SNC needs to absorb the
phenomenon of the Local Coordinating Committee and the
Syrian Revolution General Commission as the legitimate
representative of all Syrians. There is a need to take into
account the feeling of others. We need to co-opt them and be
considerate towards their feelings [and] by stressing that the
SNC is sincerely committed to being true.

7- The Socialist Party that split from Hassan Abdul Azim and
Rajaa Nasser took with it most of the members. Only a small
number remain with the historical leadership.

8- The bills of Bassam Kouefati and Haitham al-Maleh’s demand
that they be paid was resolved directly with the concerned party.
The amount of US$10,000 was paid to him directly and the case
is closed.

9- The request to cover the tickets of the [representatives of the]
revolutionary mobilization: they were asked to contact Taleb
Yehia (the accountant) to settle the accounts formally.

Next meeting: Istanbul, Sunday and Monday, 8 and 9 April 2012.
Arrival on Saturday night.

The Secretariat

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Hassan Illeik,

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